Two elderly women of Los Angeles were sentenced Tuesday to spend the rest of their lives in prison for murdering two homeless persons to collect insurance policies taken out on their lives.
The sentencing relates to the cold-blooded killing of 73-year-old Paul Vodos in 1999 and 50-year-old Kenneth McDavid six years later.
Superior Court Judge David Wesley handed down two life terms each without possibility of parole to 77-year-old Helen Golay and 75-year-old Olga Rutterschmidt.
They plucked the destitute off the street as "investments," insured their lives for millions, then snuffed them out in staged hit-and-run accidents. They became so consumed by greed that they bickered over the money even after their arrests, the prosecution charged.
The women had moved Vados into an apartment, then started applying for life insurance policies on him. Golay and Rutterschmidt jointly took out four policies, each as 50% beneficiaries. Golay also took out three more policies on her own.
Paul Vados was found dead in 1999 in a Hollywood alley in an apparent hit-and-run. The women collected about $600,000 in insurance claims.
In late 2002, they began applying for insurance on McDavid, a transient from Northern California, prosecutors said. Rutterschmidt and Golay moved him into a Hollywood apartment, and from motel to motel.
On June 5, 2005, Golay called Mutual of New York and asked to have Rutterschmidt removed as co-beneficiary on the account. That company said no.
About two weeks later, on June 21, McDavid was found dead in a Westwood back alley. After McDavid's death, Golay and Rutterschmidt collected $2.2 million in benefits. His death, however, raised suspicions at an insurance company.
Los Angeles traffic officers compared notes and opened an investigation. The mangled remains of McDavid showed the same upper-body injuries as were seen in the case of Vados.
Authorities found McDavid's DNA in the undercarriage of a 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon, which someone using Golay's Auto Club membership had towed on the night of McDavid's death in Westwood.
Golay, a Texas native who owns real estate in Santa Monica, and Rutterschmidt, a Hungarian immigrant who once owned a coffee shop with her husband, were arrested in 2006.
Even after their arrest in 2006, Golay and Rutterschmidt continued to quarrel over money. The women were left in a white-walled room with a video camera running, Los Angeles Times had reported.
"Why did you make the extra insurances?" Rutterschmidt angrily asked Golay on the videotape.
Sandra Salman, Kenneth McDavid's sister, choked up in court as she described how devastated her family was by her brother's death.
"It makes me very sad to see how low these women have sunk, where human life is equated with personal profit," Salman said, reading from a prepared statement. "These women have killed two men that we know of and their only regret is that they were caught."
Probation officers for the women, in reports released Tuesday, concluded that neither woman has a conscience and that both pose a serious threat to the community.
When they met in the 1970s, Golay and Rutterschmidt found that they had a common interest in "fleecing people," the report states. Both were "obsessed with identity frauds," the report found, and Rutterschmidt even had a rubber signature stamp in the name of her deceased husband. The report suggests she used her dead husband's name to cash checks and vote.
"These defendants remained greedy until the very end," Deputy Dist. Attorney. Truc Do told the jury.
So also the judge denounced the women for their greed, saying the men they killed needed only food, water and shelter, and thought they were going to get a helping hand from the women.
The judge said, "Instead, these unfortunate men were sacrificed on your altar of greed."